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Ann Meyers | Biopharming Research Unit

Research | Publications | Lab members | Telephone +27 21 650 5712 | Facsimile +27 21 650 2646


I have been in Prof Ed Rybicki's group since February 2000 initially as a postdoctoral fellow and currently as a Research Officer. My research interests lie mainly in the expression of recombinant proteins in plants and in particular, vaccines for humans and animals which provide a cheaper alternative to industrially-produced vaccines. I have worked on the production of HIV-1 Gag virus-like particles (VLPs) in plants with a view to using these as an HIV-1 vaccine candidate as well as the production of Bluetongue virus (BTV) particles for a potential vaccine. I am currently also working on the production of Rift Valley Fever Virus and Foot-and-mouth disease virus vaccines as well as FMDV reagents for diagnostic purposes. Work includes the expression of VLPs in Nicotiana benthamiana and preliminary testing of their ability to stimulate an immune response in mice as well as the production and specificity testing of plant-produced reagents. Since 2000, 11 honours students, 6 MSc students and 3 PhD students have graduated under my co-supervision and I am currently co-supervising 3 MSc students and 2 PhD students.


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Lab members
More informationSandiswa Mbewana
Post-doctoral fellow
More informationEmmanuel Margolin
Senior Scientific Officer
More informationJennifer Stander
PhD student
Phindile XimbaMore information
PhD student
More informationSiphomelele Ndlovu
MSc student
More informationShelley Fearon
MSc student
Steven o'Connor Steven O'ConnorMore information
MSc student
Asanda MatisoMore information
MSc student
Tim PlasketMore information
MSc student

Sandiswa Mbewana
Post-doctoral fellow

I am a Biotechnologist specializing in Plant Biotechnology. My Bsc Biotechnology degree was obtained at the University of the Western Cape in 2005. My post graduate studies (BSc Hons and MSc in Wine biotechnology) were completed at Stellenbosch University. My MSc was on the analysis of possible fungal resistance phenotype in transgenic tobacco plants over-expressing the native cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase gene. The key study area was Grapevine biotechnology focusing on disease resistance.
I have also worked as a Scientific Officer in the plant based vaccine group. My project was on the development of an avian influenza virus (H5N1) vaccine using plants and insect cell expression system. Now am have enrolled for a PhD on development of rift valley fever virus vaccine.
Emmanuel Margolin
Senior Scientific Officer
I completed my undergraduate studies in the Molecular and Cell Biology department at UCT before moving to Medical School for postgraduate training. I am currently working for the HIV Vaccine Development Group at Medical School on a MRC- funded project which aims to develop next generation HIV vaccines, for the induction of neutralizing antibodies. During the course of the project I was responsible for the development of a transient expression system for the production of HIV-1 Envelope glycoprotein trimers in plants and their immunogenicity testing in animals. This aspect of the project is hosted in the Biopharming research unit where I work closely with Dr Ann Meyers and Prof Ed Rybicki. 

This study is ongoing and is currently focused on improving the glycosylation and folding of these HIV Env antigens, as well as expanding the range of glycoproteins produced with this platform. My main research interests at present are the production of viral glycoproteins in plants and mammalian cells for use as vaccine antigens. I also have an ongoing interest in the modification of the plant secretory pathway for the optimal production of candidate vaccines.
Jennifer Stander
PhD student
JenniferI grew up in Gauteng and completed my BSc, BSc Honours and MSc in Microbiology at the University of Pretoria. My studies focused on establishing a high-throughput sequencing-based diagnostic system for the detection of grapevine viruses. My fascination with viruses and their diagnosis led me to BRU at the University of Cape Town, with their new and exciting approaches to serological reagent and vaccine development.
Working under the supervision of Prof. Ed Rybicki and Dr Ann Meyers, my PhD is focused on the expression of the West Nile Virus NS1 and prM-E genes as reagents for serological detection and VLPs as a candidate vaccine in N. benthamiana.
Phindile Ximba
PhD student
PhindileI am originally from the small town in the Northern side of KZN. I completed my B.Sc in Biochemistry and Chemistry at University of KwaZulu Natal in 2011. I then completed MSc in Biochemistry in 2014, also at UKZN. My MSc project focused on recombinant expression and characterisation of trypanosomal cysteine proteases for the development of point-of-care diagnostic tests for animal trypanosomiasis. In 2015, I joined UCT Medical Virology lab as a scientific officer working on the SHIP project focusing on developing HIV-1 Env subunit vaccines to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies. I am currently registered as a PhD student under the co-supervision of Dr Ros Chapman, Prof. Anna-Lise Williamson, Dr Ann Mayers and Prof. Ed Rybicki. My project is focusing on using different tags to improve the production and immunogenicity of Env produced in both mammalian and plant expression systems.
Siphomelele Ndlovu
MSc student
Siphomelele NdlovuI am originally from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. I completed my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria. I then did my honours in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town, as part of the BRU. I am currently doing my masters under the supervision of Prof Ed Rybicki, Dr Ann Meyers and Dr Rosemary Meggersee. My project focuses on the expression of Horseradish Peroxidase (HRP) and Alkaline phosphatase fused anti-rabbit single variable chain fragments (scFvs), derived from a mouse phage display library, in N. benthamiana.
Shelley Fearon
MSc student
Shelley FearonI completed my BSc in Genetics and Ecology and BSc (Hons) in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town.
I am currently pursuing an MSc in the Biopharming Research Unit under the supervision of Dr. Ann Meyers, Dr. Inga Hitzeroth and Prof. Ed Rybicki. My project focuses on the African horse sickness virus (AHSV), a devastating, highly infectious disease affecting equids. The research involves producing AHSV-specific antibodies and VP7 crystalline-particles in plants, for the development of potential therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines.
Steve O'Connor
MSc student
SusanneI grew up in Hilton in Kwa Zulu Natal. I attended St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg and then obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology and biotechnology as well as Honours in plant biotechnology at Stellenbosch University. I have transferred to UCT to pursue my Master’s degree. I work under Dr Ann Meyers on a project developing vaccines for Foot and Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV) in plants. Specifically; my project aims to express and optimize expression of the structural proteins of the FMDV with the intention of producing a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine in the plant Nicotiana benthamiana. The hope is that these VLPs will provide a safer and more cost effective vaccine for the agricultural industry.
Asanda Matiso
MSc student
AsandaI'm originally from King William's Town in the Eastern Cape. I completed my National diploma in Biotechnology (2010 - 2012) and BTech degree in Biomedical Technology (2013 - 2014) at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I first joined BRU in April 2016 as a NRF intern. I am currently pursuing my MSc under the supervision of Dr Ann Meyers, Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Prof Ed Rybicki. My project focuses on the use of a mouse phage display library to generate single chain variable fragments (scFvs) antibodies against Ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase or RuBisCO which is regarded as the main potential contaminant in plant produced proteins.
Tim Plasket
MSc student
TimI grew up in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. I moved to Cape Town to study at UCT in 2014. I completed my BSc with majors in Biochemistry and Genetics in 2016, which I then followed with a BSc(Hons) in Molecular and Cell Biology in 2017.
I am currently in the Biopharming Research Unit studying towards my MSc under the supervision of Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Rosemary Meggersee. My project focuses on the African Horse Sickness Virus (AHSV), a midge-borne disease which severely affects equids in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am particularly interested in generating antibody-like molecules (short chain variable fragments or ScFvs) derived from a phage display library which are specific to AHSV serotype 5.